Skinny Cajun Shrimp and Grits
She’s back, my inner southern belle, and she made you the creamiest, cheesiest, bangin’est Cajun Shrimp and Grits. Put on your biggest hat, pour yourself a glass of sweet tea, and let’s settle in for a plate of pure southern bliss.
I’m not sure what it is about the idea of being southern that appeals to me so. The charming accent? The more relaxed pace of life? The abundance of high quality fried chicken, cheese straws, and buttermilk pie?
While my hair would never survive the southern humidity, and I speak at far too great a volume to be invited for tea with polite company, southern cuisine inspires me. While I can’t pretend to be an expert at the real-deal, I enjoy taking classic southern dishes like shrimp and grits and adding my own healthy twists and preparation short cuts to make them both lighter and attainable for the average home cook. My first project was this juicy, crisp Baked Fried Chicken; I have these tasty Tabasco Coconut Shrimp Skewers, which were inspired by a trip to Louisiana; and I am continuing my slimmed-down southern food adventures with today’s 15-minute Cajun Shrimp and Grits.
My first experience with grits was the kind of culinary trauma most commonly associated with meatloaf and lima beans: a terrible childhood encounter that leads one to banish a particular food for all eternity. I vaguely remember my mom slopping a grainy, gelatinous blob onto my plate, informing me that it was called “grits,” then commanding me to eat it. I’m not entirely sure how the story ended (grits smothered into my napkin perhaps?), but from that moment on, I swore that the vile, lumpy mass would never again pass my lips.
Fast forward to college, when I traveled to Mobile, Alabama, to spend spring break with a friend’s family. We went out for a brunch, and my legit southern belle of a friend insisted that I try the cheesy grits. Coolly ignoring my loud, toddler-like disagreement, she ordered me a bowl and sweetly demanded that I taste them. After much cajoling (and a bloody Mary), I nervously lifted my fork, scooped the tiniest possible bite, and…oh grits, I sincerely regret the years I wasted despising you. Do forgive me, and let’s spend the rest of our lives celebrating the joy that you are.
Real grits are absolutely nothing like the lumpy, grainy mass I experienced in childhood. They are rich, comforting, and perfectly suited for pairing with the sharp, gooey cheddar and plump, Cajun-spiced shrimp you’ll find in today’s recipe.
The key to grit success is to pour them into the water slowly, whisk constantly, and never ever use instant grits. While true southern chefs will steer you away from quick-cooking grits as well (despite the similar name, quick-cooking are different than instant), I found the quick-cooking kind to be perfectly agreeable, and they are ready in 5 minutes instead of 50. (If you are grit curious, you can read more about the different types here.)
For big flavor and a touch of decadence, I tossed in sharp cheddar cheese, nutty Parmesan, green onions, and a pat of butter. Traditional grits often call for half and half and/or a full stick of butter, but I found the grits to be plenty rich and creamy without them.
Front to back, these Skinny Cajun Shrimp and Grits are ready in 15 minutes, leaving you plenty of extra time to enjoy that glass of sweet tea. (For another quick shrimp dinnertime winner, check out Garlic Shrimp with Quinoa or Healthy Shrimp Pad Thai!)
Until next time, y’all.
Skinny Cajun Shrimp and Grits
For the Grits:
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking or regular grits — not instant
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese, — about 2 ounces
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, — about 1 ounce, plus additional for serving
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions — white and green parts, plus additional for serving
For the Shrimp:
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound medium shrimp, — 25 count, peeled and deveined, with tails on
In a KitchenAid® 3.0-Quart Saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, then slowly add the grits in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the butter, black pepper, and green onions.
Meanwhile, preheat the KitchenAid® Convection Digital Countertop Oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss gently to coat. Spread the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast the shrimp for 5 to 6 minutes, until just pink and cooked through. Serve a top the grits, sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese and green onions.
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